Natalie Costa, Coach for Children and Parents and Coaching in Education award-winner, shares her top tips to help kids manage the emotions that might come up during uncertain times. These ideas are not only valuable in today's health crisis but they are great to remember for any parent, teacher or anyone working in education to help children deal with uncomfortable emotions. Enjoy Natalie's insightful article!

 While the world has been in somewhat of a tailspin over the last few months, with huge changes in the daily lives and routines for children, it’s no surprise that many will have been struggling with a surge of ‘big feelings’ in reaction to everything going on around them.
These ‘big feelings’ can show up in various ways, from frequent emotional outbursts, power struggles and squabbles with siblings or perhaps children becoming increasingly withdrawn, quiet and ‘clingy’ in their behaviour as they seek more comfort and reassurance. 

In whichever way they show up, these powerful emotions can have a huge impact on children and it’s not always easy to know what to say or do when the uncomfortable feelings arise.
However, by giving our children the tools to explore and navigate these feelings they will be able to grow in confidence and resilience, setting them up for the next steps in their development. 

So today I wanted to share four tips to help you support your child when it comes to dissolving the big feelings and managing their uncomfortable emotions. 

1. Create a space to talk. 

Encourage your children to talk about their feelings. So often we may want to avoid talking about a certain topic or event because we fear it may upset our child. However, by not talking about it children may suppress their feelings causing them to feel bigger and manifest themselves in different ways. 

Providing a safe space for children to talk and encouraging them to open up, allows them to share their thoughts, worries or concerns and if children are having a tricky time talking, then they could write or draw what they are feeling instead. 

Asking open-ended questions is also another way you can help your child to open up, for example, if your child is worried about the coronavirus, rather than sharing all the information  you know, ask them instead, “What have you heard about it?” or “What do you already know about it?” 

By encouraging children to talk about their feelings, helps it feel a little less scary, as they have had an opportunity to get it out of their mind and also share their thoughts with someone they trust. 

2. Give Emotions Their Own Characters

Despite manifesting themselves in various ways in the body, such as crying or smiling, emotions themselves can’t be seen, which makes them hard for children to identify. Often children will have a limited understanding of why they feel a certain way and so by turning emotions into characters, we can help them learn.

Host an arts and crafts session where you create characters for a whole range of emotions. This will help children understand that they are not defined by their feelings, but rather their emotions come and go, they are like visitors who pop in and out throughout the day.

 3. The power of using our breath. 

When big feelings take over it can be hard to get children to calm down, especially if they are angry or frustrated. Deep belly breathing is a great place to start as it sends a message to the brain that they’re calm and in control – even if the opposite is true! 

Help your child become familiar with deep belly breathing by blowing bubbles or get them to lie down and place a small toy on their tummy and tell them to try and lift the toy with every intake of breath. This will encourage them to breath from their diaphragm, rather than their chest. 

4. Expand Their Emotional Vocabulary

Children understand basic emotions, such as happiness, anger or excitement, but more complicated feelings, like ‘disappointment’ or ‘fear’ ‘embarrassment’ or ‘jealousy’, are often more confusing.

Work on extending their emotional vocabulary so they can better express how they’re actually feeling. This can be done through reading stories or going on a feelings ‘scavenger hunt’ when watching their favourite programme, encouraging your child to identify the different feelings that the characters are feeling.

Developing their emotional vocabulary helps children become better at expressing their feelings and they can begin to use, ‘I-messages’, to say what I feel and what I need, eg: I feel frustrated and I need a break, I feel embarrassed and I need a cuddle.  Help your child explore different tools that will help them when they feel certain emotions, eg: To take a break if they are feeling overwhelmed; a hug or extra cuddle if they are feeling sad; asking for help if they are feeling frustrated, etc. 

Even better, draw a body map and get them to point to where they feel each emotion. This will help them be aware of the signals and know when big feelings are developing.

Finally, understand that it’s OK for your child to be feeling more big emotions than usual. As everyone works through what has been a challenging time for us all, there’s no better time to be using the present situation as an opportunity to teach your child about their emotions. 


Natalie Costa has designed Power Thoughts to empower children to tap into the power of their mind. You can read more about Natalie and her coaching work in our insightful interview, find it here.

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